Food For Thought - Warning LONG

Rob Markoff

PFG, Picture Framing God
Mar 8, 1999
San Diego, CA USA
Before I step up on my soap box, let me preface this thread with how it came about. Last month I had the privilege of attending (for the fourth year) the Advisory Committee meetings at the PMAI headquarters in Jackson, MI. PMAI is the "parent" organization that PPFA affiliated with several years ago.

Every year, a group of framers and suppliers who comprise the "Advisory Committee" are asked to come to Jackson for two days of intensive round table discussions on the past, present and future of the PPFA, with an emphasis on how PPFA and PMAI can make the organization better serve the needs of its members and the picture framing/imaging industry as a whole. Grumble fans should know that Mr. Peter Ackerman from United Mfrs., was/is an active participant, as is Wizard International.

I am pleased to report that once again I come away from these meetings so thankful that PPFA did affiliate with PMAI and what an incredible, dedicated group of people we have in our volunteer/elected officers and especially with the PMAI staff. I am also pleased to see a sincere commitment to have the leadership of the PPFA and its committees better reflect the gender make up of it membership. (Meaning that while a majority of the members and framers are WOMEN, in the past, they were not represented in the make up of officers and committee members). I see a genuine effort to right this oversight.

The affiliation continues to be the best thing that I can remember happening to PPFA since my initial involvement in 1971. There are resources and capabilities we could not even dream of and the data gathering and analytical power that PMAI offers to PPFA is overwhelming.

It is the understanding and channeling of that capability that has taken several years of meetings to absorb, but I really think we have a handle on it now and I can assure you that GREAT things are coming. (We really did not know how good we have it and what we could really do).

OK, now the really interesting part.......

At one of the sessions, Dr. Glenn Omura, a professor from the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University met with us. If you did not attend the PPFA/PMAI conference and hear Dr. Omura's speech on the "Future of the Photo Imaging Industry" you missed one of the best reasons to attend the PPFA/PMAI convention - to hear/meet people like Dr. Omura.

Dr. Omura was hired by the PMAI many years ago to forecast the future of the Photo Imaging Industry. He was responsible for bringing the good news/bad news info to the membership of PMAI YEARS AGO that if you were paper and film based in your business, that you needed to consider the move/capitalization to digital imaging because a significant portion of your revenue source is going to go away.

Members of PMAI who heard his message got YEARS of warning before the digital revolution swept in and those who made changes in their business are still here today. Those who were slow to react....well many are not around and those who are must have another income stream because they are not making a living developing film and making prints.

Dr. Omura was at our meetings to see if there was interest in commissioning a similar study for the framing industry. Dr. Omura suggested that we look into what the "typical" picture being framed would be in the next five years. I was a bit surprised when several of the committee members balked at the notion that anything would significantly change, citing the biggest technological advancement in framing was probably the CMC and perhaps POS and Imaging software and they were already invented and in use.

Dr. Omura stated that perhaps the relevance/need of having anything framed might go away (or be significantly reduced) if there is nothing (or less) to frame, what will we all be doing?

His notion is that the "Gates" house is really closer than we may realize. The cost of a 42" plasma display is now around $1100. In five years, it will probably be $500, about 1/4" to 1/2" thick, receive wireless signals and only require a power source, come with decorative framing possibilities (Panasonic is already doing it with conventional plasmas). So, instead of having a piece of art, the display will show anything you want it to- a changing slide show of family portraits/photos, any masterpiece from a museum, "digital artwork" created specifically for plasma display, etc.

And, if the current cost of something nicely framed that size is $500 - 700, what would stop a person of means to have several of these in their homes INSTEAD of framed pictures?

The implications go further. Now, when a family goes to a photographer, they can leave with a "file" that contains their sitting, but instead of sitting in front of a back drop (another photo related industry) they will sit in front of a green screen and can be superimposed in front of ANYTHING, anywhere. There will not necessarily be a need to ever "print" a picture because it will be displayed on your cell phone (instead of carrying a picture in your wallet) on your monitor as wallpaper, and on some display(s) in a home that negate the need for matting, glazing, and I daresay framing. DIGITAL PHOTO FRAMES ARE HERE! The packaging for the image would entail something to hold a CD, or it may even be sent electronically, eliminating that aspect all together. Think of the downsizing impact on many, many industries.

Think this is far fetched? Here is what motivated me to take the time to write this....

Yesterday I was in the home of a client that has museum class art. We hang and care for his collection, uncrating new pieces, moving things around and the occasional framing job of his family photos and awards, etc.

He made most of his billions as the founder of a cell phone technology company that has naming rights to our football stadium. But I digress.....

As we were installing a new piece of art (digital output 48" x 105" mounted to aluminum and then reverse mounted to acrylic.) (no frame :( ),, he and I were discussing Dr. Omura's theory. This client has been to Bill Gate's home several times and is well aware of the technology. So much in fact that he showed me two areas in a hallway where I had previously framed and installed family photos (portraits) that had to be updated as a new grandchild arrived, or another family milestone had occurred.

He said he was looking at doing away with all of the framed portraits in favor of flat panel displays, recessed into the wall that would have either a changing display of all family photos (he was having everything (photo and film/tape) they ever had scanned and archived on a huge array of hard drives) for the ability to put up/change whatever he wanted. And, while money is no object for this person, he did not want to continue to spend money framing things that could just be switched out on a display.

I am not here to argue the merits/drawbacks of his thought process, just to make you aware that five years is not too far off, and to continue making a living at the "status quo" may not be feasible for many of us. And it is a trickle down (up?) If the need for framing decreases, the need for framing suppliers decreases as does their need for things to supply.........

So, I strongly proposed that the PPFA avail themselves of the valuable resource in Dr. Omura and I am grateful that I am a member of an association that has the foresight to conduct such a study as well as the resources to do so.

If you are not a PPFA member, or think there is nothing in the association for your benefit, I urge you reconsider and to become/maintain your membership and to GET INVOLVED.
Food for Thought?
I have indigestion!
I'll chew on it a while!
Where are the tums?

Really Rob it is an eye opener and something to think about. They already have digital photo frames and I was looking into carrying some before, now I will look again. Think I saw them advertised in one of our trade mags. One baby step!
Although valid, and probably true, is this really the beginning of the end for an industry that goes back hundreds of years?

I agree, technology is going to decrease the number of things being framed, but not everything. We will always have creators of pictures, or artwork. Will technology replace children's art, the Sunday painters masterpiece, memorabilia, framed mirrors, Super Bowl tickets, needlepoints, etc. etc.?

I think a more realistic possibility is going to be more about how we run our businesses. We are probably going to have to offer more than just custom picture frames. We may find ourselves doing laser carvings, glass etching, Giclee printing, etc. to make up the shortfall created by these new technologies.

Myself, I think technology is already making a large dent in our industry. I think it was someone here on The Grumble that pointed out that the present generation of 20-30 somethings, are more likely to prefer having a plasma TV on their wall, rather than a framed picture.

I do not believe our industry will ever be wiped out by technology, adjusted, yes, but not destroyed.

As long as we have people creating things to be displayed, there will always be a need for our services.

I do agree with Rob though, changes are a coming.

I still think it would be a good idea to pursue digital printing. Digital photography is hot right now. Get on the bandwagon. There are good printers out there in the $1,000-1,500 range that will print on 24” wide paper and don’t take up lots of room. These can handle mid range jobs from 11x14 to 24x48 or longer. A 24x36 print translates to a nice sized frame job. There is a learning curve, but isn’t that difficult. Compared to what the print houses want for these prints, it should be easy to compete favorably on the price and you can offer a discount if the customer has the piece framed. Most shops have a computer so the investment is minimal. Having a couple framed samples up on the wall would give the customer perspective. With some advertising, I can see this being a success.

I don’t see flat panel TVs causing much of an impact. Sure they take wall space from the family room or perhaps a bedroom, but your average customer probably won’t hang them down a hallway. As the prices fall on TVs, perhaps they will invest in framing again.

I am somewhat an outsider the framing business. I have friends who owned shops for years and I listen to them. I’ve looked hard at the numbers for running a store and considering the local economy, and another side venture that is doing well, I have decided not to pursue framing at this time.

It seems to me that higher fuel/utilities prices, down turn of the print market, and although now improving, the poor economy over the last few years has dampened the framing industry. It is hard for me to believe that technology is killing the business. Look back at the mid-late 80's The home video game market was resurging, bigscreen TV's, surround sound hifi, camcorders and VCRs were hot. These didn't distract framing much. The print market was on fire. There was a frame shop in every mall and strip mall in those days.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share this with us all. I, for one,
know exactly what you mean when you talk about how the affiliation of PPFA and PMAI is making the organization stronger, and I wish everyone of our members would attend the conference to experience for themselves the energy that they posess. In less you have been there and and experienced that for yourself, you have no idea.

I came away from Orlando this past Feb thinking of only how many possibilties lie before us as a group, and as an industry. However, I remember someone saying that it felt like we were boarding a great cruise ship and that, unfortunately, too many of our colleages were still standing on the dock. By the end the conference, I felt I knew exactly what those words really meant.

I do agree with you; PMAI has resources for us that we are only beginning to tap into to. Wonderful resources. I also agree that there are still more big changes in store for our industry that many people are in denial about, or worse, they don't even get out to the conferences and education events to learn what's coming down the pike, and how to adapt.

John, I agree with what you are saying, but only to a point. Even though the framing numbers may hold their own for a few years in most shops, the up and coming generation ("Jennifer") is quite different than what we are catering to right now.
I took a poll with in my store and wrote down the
ages (by guessing, not asking) of each person who came into the store (the next 500 people), and then I wrote down who actually spent money here.
My average customer age is 50-55 years old and female. It won't be too many years when those ladies will slow down on their framing. What is going to get the next generation into my store?
What does that generation want? Those are the questions that PMAI is asking and answering NOW,
but if you are not involved with PPFA and attending these conferences and being involved--then, bon voyage. That sounds harsh, and there will be many excellent framers who will always be sought out, but the "average" framer will be having a hard time of things unless they evolve.

The mall stores that were so numerous in the 80's--the ones selling the masses of limited editions? They aren't there anymore. A few survived, many went away and some evolved. That era is over.
I still think that people will want to enjoy the fact that they own an original unique piece of art. That sense of " one else has this artwork in its original form that the artist touched and created...". What about three dimensional sculptural art? It's not quite the same viewed on a plasma/LCD screen. You can't touch it and walk around it. Sure eventually hologram projections will simulate the effect. Yes these are not generally items to frame but many of us sell artwork.

Will businesses that now have dozens or hundreds of framed artworks(posters, LE's, etc) displayed throughout their offices at a cost of a couple of hundred dollars each or less replace them all with plasma/LCD's at $500 each?

Artists will only creat artwork to be digitally photographed for screen display? Maybe I'm just a dinosaur here but I am a bit skeptical about the artworld becoming a "screenworld" anytime soon. I consider 5 years soon. Yes it might come in measured amounts and eliminate some framing but all framing???
I don't think anyone is suggesting that some day there will be no framers or framing. Only that a percentage (possibly a fairly large one) may disappear. Anyone who makes their living on a product where a measurable percentage of their potential business may go away would be smart to consider their options.
There was a time when:
People thought; who would use or afford a refrigerator? (Where have all the block ice delivery companies gone?)
No one thought that televisions would be in every household, much less one in every room.
No one would have considered having a computer in the home (why in the world would you need such a device?)
When Bill Gates said, “why would anyone need more than 64k memory” for personal computers? (Paraphrased)
Etc. Etc. Etc.

I wonder how many here will argue that these devices will never affect their business.
Do I have to repeat my story about the business next door that sold and serviced typewriters (and refused to entertain the notion that their services were becoming obsolete?)
Rob, thanks for starting this conversation. Dr. Omura's comments at PPFA were eye-opening. Because he comes from outside the industry, his observations are untainted, open-minded, and probably more credible than most others on the future of framing.

Our market has been changing dramatically in recent years, perhaps as much as it will change in the next five.

For example, the rise of craft store framing has dramatically effected the industry. Some estimate they have taken 30% to 50% of the total framing market. That may be heavy on the low end, but craft stores have enjoyed most new growth in the framing market in the past five years, as well.

The good news is that craft stores have brought more consumers into the realm of custom framing, some of whom eventually become customers to small-shop independents like us.

The increasing popularity and practicality of projected image files to replace "real" pictures will certainly have an impact, but that's only one more influence of change.

Another influence that is affecting our industry right now -- not five years from now -- is the new inrush of framed "wall decor" from overseas. Imported wall decor has been limited and of inferior quality in the past, but not anymore. Consumers can now buy decent-looking framed prints at many retail stores that never before offered them, on the spot, at a fraction of anybody's price for domestic framing.

That market influence adversely affects small-shop independents, craft stores, and internet framers alike. As more and more consumers buy overseas-produced, preframed wall decor from Wal-Mart, corner drugstores and gas stations, they will buy fewer custom frames designed and built by anybody domestically. To my knowledge, this is the first significant influence that actually reduces the demand for custom framing of all kinds.

When I think of the future of framing, I am happy to promote the specialties of personal-item preservation and three dimensional framing. Musical instruments, clothing/textiles, military medals, original artworks, and valuable personal documents from Columbus probably will not be framed overseas within my framing lifetime.

I have yet to see any forecast of change in the industry affecting these particular framing specialties. However, I sense growth there, as consumers display more personal items on the walls of their increasingly larger & more elaborate homes, which are becoming more valuable as their sanctuaries.

Change fosters adaptation, too. For example, how about converting a frame shop into a specialty outlet for upscale looking, overseas-framed wall decor? I can hear it now: "No, Ms. Customer, we don't frame things anymore, but we have these 3,000 beautifully-framed prints for your selection. Which ones shall I carry to your car today? Or, would you like me to deliver and install them for you?"

Bad news for some may represent good news for others.
Then to take it a step further what options are each of you that have posted and those of you that post later considering in order to survive and be prosperous, in light of Mr. Markoff's topic?
Originally posted by Tim Hayes.:
Then to take it a step further what options are each of you that have posted and those of you that post later considering in order to survive and be prosperous, in light of Mr. Markoff's topic?
I'll be selling 42" plasma screens that display photos and works of art.
I read this minutes after you posted it Rob. I have been pondering and talking about it with some other people since.

I’m confused about a few small details. This Dr. asked about being commissioned to do the study and when turned down started making suggestions? Well has the study been done yet or not? As you know with some data or evidence then we are just a bunch of suckers with opinions. (Did I quote that right Bob?)

Now for what I have finally come to believe and why. This industry has changed very little in recent history. The frame package is still a frame, glass, image, mats, and backing. Some of the tools and materials have been tweaked just a little bit but overall they even evolve slowly.

I could list 20 industries that have defied all common sense and are still healthy today. For example every variety store over 5,000 sq/ft sells lawn mowers, tractors, and plants yet I think I see more lawn mowing companies and landscaping companies than ever before. I can’t even guess why that is? Those are contradictory observations.

I’m sure that technology will continue to shape our industry but I’m very skeptical that it will be a quantum leap. I also think its hypocritical to assume that the photo industry can make a few changes and still thrive and yet framer will go by the wayside to flat panel screens. I mean what the heck are all these people going to do with their fancy new photos?

Carry on.
Rob, Thanks for a follow-up on Dr. Omura's fine presentation in Orlando. And if you also made yourself available for Guy Kawasaki's powerful "20 minutes" then you also know how unsettling the justaposition of the two was.

Then to come back to find that the local Museum was getting ready for a 5-city world-wide telecast art show.... on, you guessed it.. 42" plasmas screens. Framed in narrow black deep stem moulding no less. I'm not sure I want to even go when it's on. It just turns my stomach to think that there will be 100s of people viewing the future.

Jay, in an industry that is essentially 600 years old, you are right not much change in the last 10 years... but in the last 30?

"The frame package is still a frame, glass, image, mats, and backing. Some of the tools and materials have been tweaked just a little bit but overall they even evolve slowly."

The dominate frame is no longer Bass or Poplar or even Raman.. poly is making huge inroads in just the last 5 years.
Glass that was Clear or NG or PLEX is now Museum, Anti Reflective, ConClear, ConNG, Reg, NG, Acrylic, Acrylite, AR, OP3, OP3 Museum, and breathable Acrylic for paintings... and thats not even covering the "specialty glazings".

Image? Would that be anilog or digital, Giclee or lazer or inkjet, holgraphic or 3D? And all that in just the last 8 years. Printing on Acrylic sheet? Oh that is like SO last century.

Mounting... When I started, Upsome board was acceptable with Yes! Paste.

Drymount has dropped tempature and time to instant roll and cold in just the last 5-6 years.

Reverseable? Artcare Restore... came out in only 2005.

Backing.. when I started the entire industry bought pallets of 24"x72" #2 cardboard. And much is still going on in hack shops today.

What I don't see anymore, or even offered is 1/2" OT Blk. And if you don't know what that is, well that's my point.

What goes into the package has changed more in the last 20 years then in the last 200. Things will now change faster and faster so hang on.

Thanks again Rob.
We live in a time when energy prices are rising rapidly - well they are in the UK. We are told to save energy to the point that you are advised to make sure that devices that have standby power are switched off - use low energy light bulbs etc. So we are going to replace energy free displays with a technology that consumes energy?

Why do people buy framed art? is it just the image or some deeper appreciation of the work. I doubt that Mr Gates fails to have a collection of valuable paintings. So to compare this sages ability to predict the demise of conventional photography and then see the picture framing business as comparible tends to make me think that he doesnt realy understand what drives this market.
Our first hand-held calculator was the size of two decks of cards and cost $100. People went 'ooooo' when Roger took it out of his briefcase. Now you can buy them the size of a credit card for 99 cents. Don't think that the same thing won't happen to plasma tvs. It did to VCRs (our first one was $800... isn't that laughable?)
People actually study this. It is called the life cycle of a product.
I can see myself displaying pictures, photos, art, whatever on a plasma TV. Wirelessly changing the image on a large plasma screen? Yeah, that sounds neat. I already have a remote for my I MAC that works on the TV. It goes along with America's
scaling down of houses and using an open concept with fewer, smaller walls.

After all, we're headed for the Space Age.
Electronic records and archives are oxymoron. Almost all the signals from the early space program are unreadable, while papyri from Ceasar's
father-in-law's library can be read (with modern
sensing) even though they were carbonized by volcanic gases. Computer printing has made creation of beautiful images on PAPER far easier to do and will make such images waterproof and light-resistant, in time.

Boy, I was really surprised at the lack of comments, but now we're getting somewhere.

Sorry for any confusion. Dr. Omura was never "turned down," there was just a dialog to determine what he could/would do and some discussion that follows the reasoning already presented in the some of the reponses in this thread.

Will technology and the future have an impact on our ability to make a living (as we do today) and what changes are coming?

Clearly there has already been an impact re: internet buying/selling of posters. My retail sale of posters is WAY down and I would love to get rid of all of the inventory I have, but can't even GIVE IT AWAY!

Jim has mentioned the influx of preframed art from overseas. As a vendor who sells to the corporate market, I can also tell you it has had an impact on my business.

And I will also tell you that it is MUCH easier to become a framer today and produce an acceptable result than it was when I started 35 years ago. Access to equipment, materials, education etc. is much easier and I think there are more framers all trying to compete for the same slice of the pie. Even PMAI is suggesting to photography based businesses to add framing services to their product mix. (And if you overhear any of their conversations (from photo finishers who are doing framing) , they talk about the obscene profits they are making!

Baer- I could go on and on re: the effect of framing (and furniture making) on the world market for wood (remember beautiful straight grained RAMIN?) How about the effect of the Euro on the dollar and how it has shifted manufacturing to other countries (and the quality issues that have resulted?) How about the effect/impact of polystyrene (PLASTIC) mouldings on our industry.

AT the same meetings, one industry leader whose opinion I ALWAYS respect was highly vocal about how good plastic moulding is and how easy it is to use and what a good value it presented and was surprised I was not already using them. And this is from someone if I had to guess would have have NEVER even considered using them. (So I will be trying some).

Bill McCurry (another person you all should get to know/hear/learn from and another reason to attend PPFA luncheons) wrote me re: this thread and talked about the ICE industry, which is still going strong. However, the #1 selling ice product (in this country)is not BLOCK ice as it was in the past, but CRUSHED ice. And, making it, bagging it, keeping it, distributing it are all different than when the Ice Man commeth.

Hugh also raises an interesting point. If the method of display/storage and even creation of visual media is electronic, and the methodology for display is compromised, how will we be able to see the image?

Will conservators of the future also have to know programming and electronics?
Just as there will always be a need for ice, there will always be a need for framers, abeit in a totally different form and method of business.

We (personally) see this in two examples. As a caner, we are in great demand. We often demonstrate at "antique" shows, and folks often comment on "the lost art of caning..." Many people have highly valuable antiques that we restore to use by replacing the seating. We have work shipped in from all over the country.

We also have a McCormick and Deering hay baler with a self contained power unit. The thing is a monster. When we are baling hay, people stop to watch. Nobody puts up hay this way anymore.

When small farmers can't compete (and we can't) many turn to creating "pick your own" events, or "corn mazes" and thus agriculture is turned into "agri-tainment" a combination of agriculture and entertainment. (I wrote an article for Art and Frame Review magazine in March 05 titled "It's all about the experience...")

I believe there will always be framers, but business, as we know it today, will cease to exist.

In 1972, our high school yearbook had the theme "The Times, They Are A'Changing" and yes, Bob Dylan was right!
Originally posted by Jay H:
...This industry has changed very little in recent history. The frame package is still a frame, glass, image, mats, and backing. Some of the tools and materials have been tweaked just a little bit but overall they even evolve slowly....
Jay, your comments are fascinating and thought-provoking. Please tell us more about your perspective.

Are you saying the evolution of the framing industry in the past decade has been unimportant to frame shop owners?

Do you believe most framers who have ignored the "very little" changes are doing business as well now as they did in 1996?

Do you believe changes in the next ten years will have only a small impact on our industry?
I agree with Hugh about the ephemeral nature of digital media and storage. Not only is the media itself subject to degeneration (and with digital it's all or nothing-- something analog that fades may still be read or enhanced, but get the bits and bytes out of order and you're screwed), but the technology for reading and storage changes rapidly. I remember reading a while back that a couple of U.S. Census data sets are now only readable by antiquated computers, and that one of the only remaining machines is in the Smithsonian Institution.
Furthermore, there is a fundamental difference in the qualitative nature of how we humans perceive an image composed of pixels on a screen vs. photons of light reflected off of a physical object such as a tangible work of art. It's an issue of quantity vs. quality. You may have thousands of images at your disposal with these 42" plasma screens, but the pleasure you get from viewing any one of them pales by comparison to the appreciation of the rich colors and surface textures of a painting, oil pastel, etc. The access to quantity has its place as a cataloguing method or research tool, but it will never replace the visceral appreciation of an orginal work.
I'm not saying great technological and business model changes won't happen, but artists have been creating tangible, expressive imagery and objects since the caves of Lascaux, and they ain't gonna stop any time soon.
:cool: Rick
I think the way the business looks and smells and operates has changed drastically from just the few years between dad's galleries and mine even though they are only separated by a few years.

My comments are focused primarily to the frame package itself, which is what this thread is really speaking to.

I still say that this industry has changed very little even in the last 300 years. Framing is unlike the typewriters that Ron mentions that came quick and left just as quickly. Did the progression from common to extinct even last a full generation?

Framing has been around for hundreds of generations and changed VERY little during that time (glass, frame, mat, image, back).

I'm sure there will be some really cool changes and toys that we will sell. I would love to have some insight into these changes and try to react best I can. I'm just skeptical that we are going to see a quantum leap from the centuries old framing we are doing today to selling digital art as a primary source of income.

Either that or I'm wrong. I'd say the odds are 50/50.
It matters little what the specific product is if those that sell it refuse to change with the times

Unfortunatly, many in our industry have fought to preserve "the good old days"

If anyone were to actually take the time to read the good Dr and quit waiting for someone to tell them what he said (and how it's concurs with their position), they might do themselves a favor

A much closer parallel might be with the Photogs

Not only do you need not look further than how the successful (there's that word again)of that industry have changed and evolved because of market changes and technology, but where they are headed next

In Ottawa, there will be class given by William Parker on Photogs getting into the Custom Framing Biz. Recently, the IPI group established a Buying Group with fairly sophisticated templates on how to get into the biz

The point is they are not sitting around with their hands in the sand (and I had to be careful in that reference)wanting to blame someone else

If we were to read anything into Dr Glenn's advice, it might be to change (or at least not be afraid to)your mindset

We often become a pretty petty and narrow group with all the answers except the most important one; that being how to survive and flourish

It's all about attitude and mindset
this industry has changed very little even in the last 300 years.
Here's a little alternative food for thought ...

I would contend that the pace of innovation is accelerating geometrically. 300 years ago, 100 years ago, or even early in our lifetime things changed much more slowly than they do now. The rate of change will continue to accelerate. This will impact every facet of business and life as we know it.

While the lion's share of innovation investment continues to be made by developed countries, the rest of the world is catching up rapidly. R&D spending in China and India grew at an annual rate of 21.1 percent between 1999 and 2004, according to Booz Allen Hamilton, compared to 6.5 percent for the Global Innovation 1,000 (the top 1000 R&D spenders). We will see an increasing influx of new technologies from outside of the US. Plasma screens and the similar technologies will continue to drop in price and become ubiquitous.

Of all the core functions of most businesses, innovation may be managed with the least rigor. For those companies who do manage innovation its focus is changing. Gone are the days when innovation was acquired from outside the business and then installed like a new piece of equipment (think CMC, POS, etc.) When the nonprofit Council on Competitiveness recently asked 199 companies to identify their most frequent collaborators in innovation, suppliers and customers were cited by 78 percent!

In the next decade we will see more changes than ever before. Those that thrive will have learned to embrace change, exploit new technologies, and collaborate with an array of partners.

[ 06-30-2006, 02:06 PM: Message edited by: CAframer ]
Bob, are you running for office? I’m not sure what your saying but I think I agree….well except that part where I disagree, I think?

I may read this Doctors findings just as soon as I'm made aware where these findings are even located. This is the first I've heard about such a thing and I’m CERTAIN I’m not alone on that.

Also if you believe that these great changes are a coming then why on earth would the know-it-all photo guys be getting into the industry? Sounds like to me that in their perfect insight into the future, we should just rest comfortable in the fact that they are interested in framing. Heck if nothing else we are ahead of the curve.

Sarcasm aside, I think we can already see some changes in what we are framing. Will these changes be more of a nice addition to our business or will it make up the majority of it?
Jay- Dr Glenn is well published and is often in the PMA monthly mag, newsletters and emails

I'm not suggesting that the industry is in peril; to the contrary. But, many current participants may not want to purchase bananas in bunches. Look at how many Grumblers are no longer in Business in just the last 4-5 years. How many of those had been around for a long time prior? (And, before anyone think this is directed, it's simply a matter of fact)

I was involved in project where a very specific portion of the market was disappearing (and with it, this particular vendor's business). We explored, dug, analyzed and quickly found a common thread that we titled the "Crumudgeon Factor". Most had been around for 10+ yrs and had not changed. The more the market changed, the more they became entrenched. You could tell who they were, you just couldn't tell 'em much.

Bottom line: There was no magic bullet and the vendor adopted a "closer watch" on credit and spent more effort on replacing with newer (younger) clientele that appeared to be doing very well, thank you

It's all about thinking, changing, adapting

That's what the photogs are doing

Jay, you mentioned that you are certain that you are not alone in suggesting that this info is new to you. You are absolutely correct, but you just mightactually try and find more info, while many may not

And, I think we know who deserves that blame
In my day job (the one that provides insurance, etc) I work for Wolf Camera. This is my second stint with the company after an 8-yr hiatus. As an "old time" retailer they've been around a long time. Just some food for thought, observing a rapidly-changing industry.

THEN: Roll of film that we process and print, you can pick these up in an hour.
NOW: Touch screen self-ordered photos, ready in 10 minutes.

THEN: WE are the experts, that's why you're paying a little extra.
NOW: Of course our price is the same as Best Buy, Cirsuit City, etc - even though your sales rep was selling washers yesterday.

THEN: Your enlargements will be ready in 2 weeks.
NOW: Your poster will be ready in 1 hour.

THEN: What kind of film? Slides? Prints? BW? Color? 12- 24- 36 exposures?
NOW: We have 200 or 400, 24 exposures (primarily - there's little choice) What size memory card? 128-256-512-1G-2G Fast, normal, high speed???

THEN: Kodak, Nikon, Canon, Minolta, Pentax, Olympus
NOW: Sony, Casio, Nikon, Canon, Fuji. Minolta doesn't even make cameras anymore. Kodak makes more money from royalties and digital technology than they do from film. Nikon and Canon are putting $0.00 into new film camera production.

In our (framing) business, those that change will be fine. Those with the inability or refusal to change WILL be those left behind. The key will being able to know WHAT changes to make, and how QUICKLY to make those changes.

BTW - that's why we have IF,a website, are fully computerized, etc. What's next?

I'm going out on a limb on this one:

I doubt that technology will thwart the human urge to create and personalize.

I think that we will still be framing, but the way we frame will look/function differently.

I think that "the frame" will be more fluid, less static - perhaps frame products that change color, glow, move, have sound, or are made of part of the art. Options and personalization. Customer involvement through visualization and production.
Framing incorporated into "systems" such as "side art" around a screen, frames serving as doors in a family work center, glass dividers/screens/counters/floors with the "art" embedded.

More decorative, less preservation.

Anthem: Less is more, but I want it to be more of me.

Translation: Fewer items but more framing by more people. This may not be "custom framing", but framing product lines.

Items: Combined images - photgraphic/paint/3-d/collage. Ethnic/environmental/political combinations. Images flashed to glass or metal.
Fabric - cording, knots, beads. Relationship items - family/friends, religion, ethnicity, travel. Books. Interchangeable art products.

But then, what do I know?
Just to clarify for all who have participated and/or have read without replying......

Dr. Omura met with us at the beginning of June. We "advised" the powers that be that we felt that the industry could benefit from a formal, publised study by Dr. Omura.

There has not been (to my knowledge) any commission of that study, so there are no published rsults. But Dr. Omura's pontifications are readily available on the PMA website and through PMA publications (which are free to PPFA members who avaio themselves of them.)

If you agree that we made a wise decision to "advise" that there be a study, your positive response to the board of PPFA (see and click on the links to the board) may motivate them to act on our advise.
No one has yet addressed the limited life of a plasma, especially one that stays on for long periods of time "displaying" pictures. 60K hours and it's black...forever.

Secondly, the cost of a 42" will probably never reach $500 for a TV that will display any kind of quality. The cost of the raw materials alone will probably continue to exceed that for a long time to, more than 5 years. It will become, however, a race to get the "best" for the money by the consumer able to pay for multiple TVs. Maybe we should all start selling grades called Regular, Conservation and Museum.
I've been in the auditorium on several occasions to hear Dr. Omura address the PMA crowd. His reports and presentations are always good. Last fall, at the North Central PMA meeting he spent the afternoon with about 30 of us. In a small group setting he was awesome.. In spite of his academic credentials he truly understands the dynamics of running a small independent business.

His insight and data is not compromised by an association with a manufacturer, distributor or other industry player. This makes his advice different and valuable. PPFA would be doing its members a great service to engage this fellow.

Jay - I'm one of those photo guys you refer to. I'm flattered you think I'm a "know it all" but "Chicken Little" would be more accurate.
The reason I and many others have added frame shops services is that digital technology has dramatically changed our business model. Diversification for any photo lab is the key to survival.

Ohh I was just poking fun at Bob. There are times when I think we are going to have to surgically remove him from PMA's back side.
Michael and others=

Dr. Omura (and Dr. Jacobs, co-founder of Quaalcom) both do not think that PLASMA will be the type of display. If fact, Dr. Jacobs feels that all of the circutry etc.will be on the lcd display itself making it about 1/2" thick total.

It will more likely be LYCOS than Plasma. And, I trust that he (Dr. Jacobs) may have some insight on what is currently being developed/tested!
For the purposes of this thread, does it really matter what specific imaging technology brings that scenario to life, or exactly when it will happen? Just a decade ago "gigabyte" was a strange word to most of us.

Rob's original topic was to consider how evolution will affect our framing & photographic industries in the future. It's interesting that here we have responses from (paraphrasing) "very little change", to "framing is going the way of buggy whips".

So, who's crystal ball is perfectly tuned?
Not too many years ago huge amounts of money was spent on research, and the conclusions was that basically the world was going to come to an end.

Some of us, yes I was one of them, made big bucks off of Y2K because some of the researchers was screaming doom and gloom. My bill rate was $125 per hour to install some simple software patches to Novell and Microsoft servers.

Nothing happened.

Maybe this time I can find a way to market and sale used framing equipment to other industries.

How about for $200 bucks per hour plus expenses I come in to liquidate frame shops.

A photograph of a football jersey displayed on a back lit LCD will just not cut it in the real world. No matter how nice the resolution quality of the monitor will be, it will still just be a fake looking facsimile of a real item.

People will still want things framed.

How and what you frame may change.
I think the world of books and libraries are a good example of changing to reflect a changing world of technology.

A while back there was a lot of talk about both the "paperless office" and the "electronic book."

Well, I go through reams of paper even in my little operation and books, like REAL artwork, have a tactile feel and scent and I am confident that there will always be folks who prefer the real thing.

I like my LCD display on my camera but I can't see it outdoors on a sunny day. So no electronic books for me - and no plasma TVs either, thank you very much.

Perhaps when the big switch is made to HDTV maybe I'll ditch my only TV and not replace it.

Course, I am a dinosaur. Don't even have a cell phone. And since I turned 60 this year, I won't be having my shop forever - I figure when I'm about 75 or 80 they can drag me out.

Gonna take Baer's fabric class to be able to offer my customers a little something even more personalized than what I am offering now. So I try to keep stretching my brain and my creativity to keep me, if not ahead of the curve, at least not too far behind it.

Carry on!